There are so many dog ’misdeeds’ that people inadvertently teach. Of these, one of the most complaining is jumping on people to say hello. There is a wide variety of jumping styles; the least egregious is the little dog that trots along and daintily places its front paws on someone to greet them (unless the person is wearing socks that may be torn). Then there is the jumper and the gorilla. This dog comes bounding towards you and bounces between paw strikes. Jumping and grabbing is the one that seems to cause pet owners the most distress. This dog jumps up and uses its front paws to grab your leg or waist as if to say “I’ve got you and I won’t let go until you scratch me behind the ear.” Friends and visitors are sure to find that these canine greetings are usually followed by a disclaimer from the owner such as “Oh, I’m so sorry, he’s really friendly.” Fortunately, in most cases this is true.
Unfortunately for these friendly dogs, the fact that they haven’t been taught how to greet in a way that people are more likely to greet them with warmly, their chances of expanding their circle of human friends become quite limited. Even a dog lover like me doesn’t necessarily want to be greeted by a 60-pound Labrador Retriever lunging at me as I walk through the door. Especially if I’ve made the effort to dress up a bit for a visit to a friend’s house. So, if you want your dog to reap the benefits of making lots of human friends, and if you want to take your dog for a walk without having to prepare to offer apologies along the way, read on.
Dogs jump up to say hello simply because it allows them to get close to our faces, which often offers plenty of reinforcement in the form of eye contact, smiles, and chatter. They also do this because when a dog is a puppy, almost everyone they meet not only allows them to jump, but actively encourages it. It’s hard to resist a puppy doing just about anything, especially choosing to try to jump start the game with you. However, it’s best to consider postponing that momentary gratification and instead consider this little pup to be a part of your family for 15 years or more. Will this very behavior of jumping up to say hello be something you and your family and friends will want to live with for so long? This is especially true with medium and large sized dogs. A 15-pound Doberman Pinscher puppy will grow into a 60-pound dog or more. While we all have to admit that we occasionally break the rules in our own lives (who hasn’t gone a few miles over the speed limit?), allowing a dog to behave a certain way at one point and then expecting something else entirely the next is unfair to both you and the dog in the long run. In the case of dogs, rules are not meant to be broken.
So if you’ve set out to help your dog tame this jumping habit, then let’s get started:
1. Keep your dog on a leash at all times when your dog is likely to come into contact with someone he or she might jump on. You can hold the leash in your hand or step on the end to help prevent your dog from jumping out. . Every time you prevent a jump to greet practice, you are helping your dog break the habit.
2. Plan to have some food available for every possible greeting. While holding or stepping on the leash, show your dog the food and wait for him to offer to sit. It’s best not to say sit or lure for one (i.e. move your hand up and back over your dog’s head so he puts his butt on the ground) because what you’re really looking for is a dog that learns to sit automatically to say hello instead of having to ask him to sit down. When your dog sits, say “Yes!” and give the treat.
3. Until your dog develops the habit of automatically sitting when you say hello in a quiet environment (with most dogs this takes a few days at most), ask people not to talk to or touch your dog. This way it will be easier for your dog to succeed.
4. Plan training sessions with one or two friends at a time so you can gradually introduce calm contact and verbal interactions with your dog while sitting. If your dog gets up from the seat, simply ask him to stand up straight and ignore your dog until he sits back down. This way your dog will get a clear picture of what is happening when he jumps on people. In this case, everything good (attention, food, etc.) is gone.
5. Be a great pet parent and carefully consider what situations your dog can handle depending on their age, temperament, and the time you’ve spent helping them learn how to behave. If you’re just beginning a training plan, it’s probably best not to allow your dog to greet people in a highly stimulating environment like at a cocktail party or if there’s a crowd on the street. Even if your dog is making wonderful progress, be aware of his body language and general reaction to a specific person or environment. Getting your dog out of situations he can’t yet handle is an important part of being a responsible pet parent. If you meet an especially interesting person on the street and your dog doesn’t seem to remember your automatic sit lessons, just walk away. If you’ve invited a group to a party and can’t focus on caring for your dog, have him rest quietly in another area of the house with some food-filled chew toys.
Teaching your dog to automatically sit up to greet people is part management and part training. Using both and helping your dog practice in gradually more challenging situations is the way to help him become a super polite greeter.